Thoughts on Doctor Who: Father’s Day

Because my wife insisted that we should watch it on Mother’s Day. No, really, she did.

Yes, I married a weird and wonderful woman.

Also one who points out (quite rightly) that we can and should celebrate mothers every day of the year, so she’s not quite into the whole commercialised side of Mother’s Day.

Plus, she pointed out that I’m well behind on my quest to work through as much of new Doctor Who as possible during the break we’re having between Jodie Whittaker series of the show.  As always, these are raw streams of my thoughts as the show goes on, not a formalised review. But after 14 years, there’s probably enough of those online anyway.

But as always, I’m mindful that some folks may not have seen Father’s Day, so here’s some traditional spoiler space so you can gracefully back out if you need to.

  • We open with Rose narrating the facts of her father’s life, and a flashback that tries so very hard to make Camille Coduri look a LOT younger.
  • Doesn’t work. Ah well. Jackie’s still wonderful anyway.
  • Rose has worked out that she’s in a time machine — why not use that capability?
  • Roll the credits!
  • Watching your parents wedding ceremony would be rather cool to do, I’d think. Nice gratuitous Lady Di gag in there too!
  • The mood here is grim, what with the whole my-dad-died motif. And Rose is quite upfront about wanting to be there so that he doesn’t die alone. Subtle foreshadowing this is not, even without the next week teaser trailer.
  • The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.
  • I shouldn’t laugh. But, well… I did.
  • The car hitting Peter Tyler isn’t a great effect, but Piper’s acting and the more-subtle music carries it.
  • “Can I try again?”
  • And now we get convoluted, with the Doctor breaking the laws of time. Of course, for long-term fans of the show, we’d know that the Gallifreyans would be annoyed with this — but of course they’re no longer a factor.
  • Rose makes the snap decision to save her father, because of course she does. It’s  entirely consistent with her character.
  • “You and your boyfriend need a lift?”
  • Ooh, if looks could kill, the Doctor would have killed Peter AND Rose Tyler in one hit. But then the episode would be a lot shorter.
  • Christopher is saying more with just his eyebrows than he could with actual words. Maybe that’s where Capaldi got the angry eyebrows from?
  • “There’s a man alive who wasn’t alive before”
  • Rose and the Doctor fight like an old married couple. To be honest, I’m on the Doctor’s side with this one — he could, indeed, just leave.
  • Except, of course, for the creepy red-tinged Evil Dead monster that’s flying around. That’s going to be… problematic.
  • Peter’s trying to pick up Rose… which is super-creepy and delightful.
  • “I know what you’re saying and we’re not going there. At no point are we going anywhere near there. You aren’t even aware that “there” exists. I don’t even want to think about “there” and believe me, neither do you. There—for you—is like…. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle.”
  • “Blimey, you know how to flatter a bloke.”
  • OK, there I am meant to laugh. And I did.
  • It strikes me that this is a very low-cost episode. That’s fine, of course — the central concept and the acting is what we should be caring about.
  • The Tardis… isn’t a Tardis any more. It’s a wonderful effect — again, very cheap, but surprising that it hadn’t entirely been done before.
  • “Watson. Come here. I need you.”
  • You’ve got to have just a little historical knowledge to get that one before it’s spelled out for you.
  • Jackie in a full 80’s perm! Wonderful stuff!
  • More and more people are vanishing, and all the time the production department hasn’t had to spend anything beyond the cost of a red lens filter.
  • The Lamb & Flag gets mentioned! It makes a certain odd sense to think that Pete and Jackie would be in the same company as Richard and Eddie…
Mind you, at the time Mayall & Edmonson had only just finished being grotty students in Bristol. The kind that might have got a video from Pete Tyler, mind.
  • The Big-Dragon time bacteria things are… a bit of a letdown. Although they might just be Ridley out of Metroid, too.
  • So the things cannot get onto holy ground. And they’re into time. Maybe they’re immortals?
  • “JACKIE TYLER DO AS I SAY! GO AND CHECK THE DOORS!”
  • So… good.
  • OK, the actual “time’s been damaged and they’ve come to sterilise the wound by consuming everything inside” explanation is a bit naff. Especially as he just called them “bacteria taking advantage”, which would suggest quite the opposite.
  • The vanishing car motif is cute. Again, it foreshadows the obvious, but it’s about the getting there as much as the conclusion.
  • “You called me “Dad”. I can see it. My eyes. Jackie’s attitude. You sound like her when you shout. You are. You are. You’re my Rose.”
  • And that’s why this somewhat-silly story works. It’s not the core plot — it’s the characters behind it.
  • “Yes. I’ll try and save you”
  • It’s the delivery of simple lines like that which make Christopher one of my favourite doctors. Then again, I’m somewhat in the Brigadier camp on that score. Wonderful chaps (and later a lady), all of them.
  • Rose and Peter get into a discussion that can only be awkward, what with his whole being-dead-in-Rose’s-timeline business.
  • Tiny Mickey the idiot! I’d totally forgotten about him. Although… isn’t that problematic? I didn’t get the sense that Rose and Mickey were anything *but* the same age. And yet if he’s that old, he’s 5-7 years older than Rose is in 1987. Hmm…
  • “Don’t touch the baby!”
Not this baby, mind.
  • Well, it’s not like the Doctor has ever used the Blinovitch Limitation Effect to resolve a story before. Well, except for that whole one time he did.
Then again, this causes all kinds of DIFFERENT timeline problems for Who fans. Forget I mentioned it.
  • “There used to be laws stopping this kind of thing from happening. My people would have stopped this. But they’re all gone. And now I’m going the same way. “
  • The Doctor is SO sad here.  Although Christopher in a pea green skivvy looks like the Vegan Wiggle.
I’m actually astonished that Who fandom hasn’t made “Groan Groan Chugga Chugga Big Blue TARDIS” yet.
  • Rose is lying to her father, and Billie Piper is doing a great job of making it obvious she’s lying. Prior to the series she was the great unknown bit of “stunt” casting, but this is her first big demonstration of her acting chops.
  • The Tardis is back!
  • But then again, so is the killer car.
Just the one, mind.
  • Peter’s worked it out. Smart boy!
  • “I’m your dad. It’s my job for it to be my fault.”
  • Rose touches… erm.. .herself. That sounds a lot dirtier than it is.
  • She was just handed herself as a baby, is all. Could happen to any of us.
  • But this is a very, very bad thing.
  • The Doctor gets eaten by the dragon-bacteria thing. Which then flies into the Tardis and vanishes. And now Rose can touch the key.
  • But there are still dragons.
  • “This is it. There’s nothing we can do. It’s the end.”
  • I can’t help but wonder. Has the moment been prepared for?
Probably not. Although chronologically, not as the TARDIS flies, this takes place 5 years earlier.
  • Having a long section of silence (music notwithstanding) is a very bold move for any TV show. But it’s the defining motif of the end of this episode.
  • Peter Tyler decides to meet his fate head on. Quite literally.
  • For what it’s worth, I would utterly lose my mind if my children from 20 years in the future suddenly walked into my house. So, y’know, kids, don’t get any ideas.
  • Peter goes to meet his fate, and there are no words. Which is exactly as it should be. And finally, finally Rose can be there for him in his last moments.
  • Even after all these years, and more than a few watchings, this still has serious emotional depth. Yep, folks, I’m tearing up.
  • “People say there was this girl, and she sat with Pete while he was dying. She held his hand. Then she was gone. Never found out who she was.”
  • PASS THE TISSUE BOX. YES, THE EXTRA LARGE ONE.

Final thoughts:

That was fantastic.

Not so much the story, which is somewhat thin and not terribly well explained, but the character dialogue and performances.

Christopher Eccleston is wonderful as always, Shaun Dingwall puts in a great run as Peter Tyler, but I’ve got to hand it to Billie Piper, who has her first — and quite possibly best — performance as Rose here.

Which is going to make it even harder to…

Rank the episodes of Series 1

  1. Dalek
  2. Father’s Day
  3. Rose
  4. The Long Game
  5. The Unquiet Dead
  6. The End of the World
  7. Aliens of London
  8. World War 3

I have jostled this around in my head almost endlessly. Father’s Day has better, more believable characters than Dalek, and more of an emotional punch.

But Dalek has a better scare factor, an iconic villain treated properly (something that, sadly, wouldn’t always be true) and a more consistent narrative than the one that plays out here.

They’re both exceptional episodes of Doctor Who, however.

Plus, there’s a couple of episodes coming up that I haven’t watched for a while that might even give them a run for their money…

Next time: The reason why I make the same joke every time I see a gas mask. Plus some… Captain guy. Probably not important.

Lead image: BBC

Author: Alex

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